Further COVID-19 restrictions could speed up the sale of Philip Green's Arcadia empire

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
A pedestrian wearing a face covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walks past a closed-down Topshop clothes store, operated by Arcadia, on Oxford Street in central London on November 27, 2020. - British fashion empire Arcadia, which owns Topshop stores, announced Friday it was evaluating several "rescue options" to save its brands after media reports suggested an imminent bankruptcy attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. Bankruptcy of the group, which has 15,000 employees and more than 500 stores, would be a thunderclap in British commerce, already hit hard by the health crisis and the rise in online shopping. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
In November, Philip Green’s Arcadia Group collapsed with more than 13,000 jobs on the line. Photo: Tolga Akmen / AFP via Getty Images

Uncertainty about returning to normal high street shopping and the government’s announcement of more regions entering Tier 4 COVID-19 restrictions have prompted Arcadia’s administrator to speed up the sale of Sir Philip Green’s collapsed retail empire.

Suitors are being given a deadline of 18 January to make final bids, the Times newspaper has reported.

Deloitte, which is handling the administration is understood to have had thirty expressions of interest, but the frontrunners have been whittled down to as many as five.

Topshop, the jewel in Green’s retail portfolio has so far received bids above the £200m ($274m) price-tag.

Online fashion retailer, Boohoo (BOO.L) is thought to be leading bids for Arcadia’s Topshop and Topman brands.

With other potential buyers including Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group (FRAS.L); Next (NXT.L), bidding jointly with Davidson Kempner, an American investment company and Chinese online fast-fashion retailer, Shein.

It is unclear whether Authentic Brands, the American owner Barneys New York and Juicy Couture, which was said to be in talks with Arcadia, is still in the running.

The accounting firm struck a deal to sell Evans — Arcadia’s plus-sized fashion brand — last month to City Chic, of Australia, for £23m.

In November, Green’s Arcadia Group collapsed with more than 13,000 jobs on the line.

READ MORE: US retailing giant plots 'double takeover' of Debenhams and Arcadia

The crown jewel of Green’s retail empire, the former Topshop flagship store on Oxford Street could be sold following the appointment of agents who have been tasked to advise on the site’s future, Sky News reported.

Administrators to Redcastle Limited, which owns the central London property next to Oxford Circus station, have appointed Eastdil and Savills to advise on the proceedings.

Additionally, Debenhams' future, which was affected by Arcadia’s demise, continues to hang in the balance amid last-ditch rescue talks with Ashley.

COVID-19 pandemic has seen many companies buckle under the pressure, especially as many high street brands were already struggling pre-pandemic.

Green’s reputation was left in tatters following the collapse of BHS, the department stores chain. Green controversially sold BHS in 2015 for £1 to Dominic Chappell, a former racing driver who was recently jailed for tax evasion.

The retail tycoon struck a deal in 2017 with pensions watchdogs to pay more than £360m to the BHS scheme, which set the tone for talks over Arcadia's retirement fund two years later.

Meanwhile, the widening of Tier 4 restrictions has dealt a £650m blow to Primark’s sales, £220m more than it warned it would lose at the start of December. Its owner, Associated British Foods (ABF.L), said that 253 of the budget fashion chain’s shops were shut, representing 64% of its total selling space.

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